BRICS Academia Forum held in Johannesburg File Image: IOL
DURBAN - The 10th BRICS Academia Forum hosted top academia from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Johannesburg.

The academia from the five countries got together to propose actionable solutions to the some of the socio-economic challenges that developing face.

South Africa is the chair for the 2018 BRICS summit and Minister of Higher Education, Naledi Pandor was present at the opening of the forum.

South Africa also set the agenda for the forum this year and chose to focus on the theme of Envisioning inclusive development through a socially responsive economy.

The Chairman of the BRICS Think Tank Professor Ari Sitas said: "South Africa is not a poor country, but an unjust one and it’s up to us right those injustices".

Addressing Gender Inequality

The theme of injustice was particularly evident in the first panel of which the focus was on gender and inequality in BRICS countries.

From the Chinese delegation, Gao Hao indicated that inclusivity is beneficial for not only women but for the economy too.

Hao said, "Research shows that if gender equality and women’s empowerment are realised in most countries, the global GDP bonus will reach 28 trillion dollars."

However, the barriers to gender equality are quite significant. Joana Mostafa from the Brazil delegation explained that in Brazil for example, women dedicate many hours in a week to unpaid domestic care and work. This cuts down the number of hours they can dedicate to paid labour.

Universal Health Coverage

Another topic that was discussed was how universal health care (UHC) can get achieved in the five BRICS countries. The discussion began with talks on how developing countries have a long way to go before they can end epidemics like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030.

From the South African delegation, Aquina Thulare pointed out that there are 911 million cases of TB in the world with 432 million cases happening in BRICS countries.

Thulare said that BRICS needs to take a good look at the real causes of the multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). She added that if BRICS countries persist on taking drugs forced upon them by huge pharmaceutical companies as solutions to the TB epidemic then all that we have achieved is people that have a resistance to drugs that are currently being used to fight MDR-TB.

Strengthening Education and Science

During the forum, an important question was posed by the Russian delegation around pulling the collective strengths of the BRICS nations in the education, scientific and productive sectors.

From the Russian delegation, Leonid Grigoryev said that it is crucial to ask whether we are producing innovations or importing them.

Thaiane Oliveira from Brazil indicated that while the total scientific research outputs from BRICS countries was 1382 but only 288 of them are openly accessible.

Oliveira suggested that BRICS countries could possibly need to access open platforms to better the visibility of their research.

Promoting Energy Research

According to Jaya Josie South Africa faces a lot of challenges in the uptake of green energy. Josie said that more innovative financing mechanisms are required.

Aparajit Pandey from India said that international bank regulations restrain the financial flows of funding for climate change. Pandey believes that BRICS countries need to push for restoration in international financial institutions.